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Morphology index guides adnexal mass workup in postmenopausal women



New clarity from an international consensus report may help guide evaluation of adnexal masses. The report provides guidelines for risk stratification and diagnostic evaluation when an ovarian mass is found.

Accurate and thorough evaluation of an adnexal mass in a menopausal woman must respect cancer prevalence data, Frederick Ueland, MD, one of the report’s coauthors, said at the annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society. In premenopausal women, there are “many tumors, but few cancers,” he said. Only about 15% of ovarian tumors are malignant when found before menopause.

But after menopause, there are “few tumors, but many cancers,” Dr. Ueland said. Up to 50% of tumors in postmenopausal women are malignant, with epithelial ovarian cancer, metastatic cancer, and granulosa cell tumors predominating.

Multiple clinical trials have taught physicians that “tumor morphology helps stratify cancer risk,” he noted.

Ultrasound is the best imaging modality to evaluate adnexal masses, he said. At his institution, the use of a morphology index to guide management of adnexal masses has reduced the number of surgeries performed to remove one cancer over the years, said Dr. Ueland, chief of the division of gynecologic oncology at the University of Kentucky, Lexington.

During the 1990s, when the Morphology Index was first used at the University of Kentucky, surgeons performed 12.5 surgeries per cancer. In the 2000s, that number fell to 5.2, and during the present decade, one cancer is detected in every 4 surgeries, he reported.

Limiting subjectivity is a key to accurate cancer detection when evaluating adnexal masses, so that the dual goals of accurate cancer detection and avoidance of unnecessary surgeries can be met, Dr. Ueland said. To address these dual needs, the first international consensus report on adnexal masses was issued in May 2017 (J Ultrasound Med. 2017 May;36[5]:849-863).

The report noted the sharp discrepancy between surgery rates in the United States and Europe. “In the United States, there are approximately 9.1 surgeries per malignancy, compared with the European International Ovarian Tumor Analysis center trials, with only 2.3 (oncology centers) and 5.9 (other centers) reported surgeries per malignancy, suggesting that there is room to improve our preoperative assessments,” the investigators wrote.

In reviewing management guidelines, Dr. Ueland said that, when the risk of malignancy is low, as with smooth-walled, unilocular or septate cysts, the mass can be monitored without surgery, with ultrasound reevaluation at the 6-month mark. If there are no concerning changes, the mass can then be imaged annually for 5 years. No further follow-up is needed at the 5-year mark, barring growth or other changes of the mass.

If the ultrasound evaluation of the mass shows intermediate risk, then secondary testing is needed. Masses that show as partly solid or that have small, irregular wall abnormalities, or atypical nonpapillary projections on ultrasound fall into this category. Secondary testing may be accomplished either by serial ultrasound or by using biomarker testing.

Commercially available triage biomarker tests such as OVA1, ROMA, and Overa may offer higher detection rates than cancer antigen 125 (CA 125) testing alone, Dr. Ueland said. For instance, OVA1, a multivariate index assay, detected 76% of malignancies missed by CA 125 (Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Jul;215[1]:82.e1-11).

If the mass has high-risk characteristics, then a prompt surgical referral to a gynecologic oncologist is a must. Included in this category are mostly solid masses and those with papillary projections, as well as those associated with any ascites. No secondary testing or watchful waiting is recommended in these cases, said Dr. Ueland, since they carry a greater than 25% risk of malignancy.

Dr. Ueland is currently enrolling patients in a clinical trial to assess whether serial transvaginal ultrasonography with Morphology Index can reduce false-positive results by more accurately distinguishing benign from malignant ovarian tumors. He reported having no financial disclosures.

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